Foreigner’s recount of Polish Christmas

This was my third consecutive Christmas in Poland with my boyfriend’s family and it’s about time that I wrote about it.

I previously did not have much idea how Christmas was celebrated in this part of the world (or any for that matter). In Nepal,except for the few Christians, Christmas along with many other  Western festivals, are literally other reasons for partying for (mostly) youngsters. The shopping malls in the cities put up Christmas trees and the international TV channels begin airing Christmas movies (HBO every year aired Home Alone if I recall correctly and I loved it as a child) and that’s about it. The government has recently starting giving a one day national holiday to become more inclusive to all communities in Nepal (Christians make up less than 2%). I was always curious what authentic Christmas celebration looked like.

I have never taken part in any other Christmas celebrations besides Polish so I don’t know what the differences are. But in Polish culture, Christmas eve is the most important day. Families gather in the evening and enjoy a great Christmas feast. One of the highlights is that meat is not eaten on this evening and hence many dishes are centered around fish (not considered meat and that’s weird for me as a Nepalese) and vegetables. The ceremony begins by breaking wafers (opłatek) while personally passing cordial holiday greetings to each and every member present in the event. The last two years I just said wszystkiego najlepszego (Wish you the best of everything) to everyone, as that was the only and the most useful greeting that I had memorized for holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. But this year, I added a couple more words due to the improvement in the language (Yay) 😀

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Wafer breaking

After the wafer breaking and some reciting from the Bible about Jesus’s birth (maybe this differs from families), the dinner started. I was told that there are commonly 12 special dishes in Polish Christmas eve celebration. Traditional Polish dinner starts with soup. We started with beetroot soup with traditional Polish dumplings (czerwony barscz z uszkami) and/or mushroom soup with pasta (grzybowa z makaronem). The other dishes on the plate consisted of herrings (in different styles like with onions and with cream etc), fried carp, Polish dumplings (pierogi), sauerkraut, stuffed egg (faszerowane jajko) and potatoes. There was also gingerbread (piernik) and some cakes on the table. Everything was scrumptious and full of typical Polish flavors.

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Gingerbread cookies
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Part of my plate

After the dinner, we got presents from Santa (boyfriend’s younger cousin). I got a super light towel which dries fast. It was a handy gift that I am going to use a lot, while traveling, especially. The older members of the family then started singing Christmas songs. The others laughed, talked and mingled. It was a fun-packed evening with close family members sharing the joy together. I really enjoyed being a part of such an intimate ceremony.

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Getting present

On Christmas day, I hung out with boyfriend and his family. We enjoyed homemade turkey and homemade delicious wine. I was asked to marinade part of the turkey Nepali style, which I did, and it turned out good. We lazed around the whole day and played some games together. Some members of the family attended the church (the night before at vigil and on this day). On the second day of Christmas, I did nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was such a nice, much-needed 4 days break from work that I wanted to do nothing and relax. There wasn’t picture-perfect snow (or any snow) in this Christmas, but it was indeed a good celebration.

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Foreigner’s recount of Polish Christmas

  1. What a big family celebration! For us we never really celebrated with the extended family except when we were visiting them anyways for that time period… So usually it is only my parents, my wife,Nathan and myself. My brother is for the past years always at his girlfriends parents place.
    For us there is no restriction when it comes to eat meat at Christmas Eve but then again we are not really polish :p

    1. Yes, families are close-knit here indeed.
      Actually, I and my boyfriend both had KFC in the afternoon that day, but then we are not religious hehe. From what I know Catholics here pretty much follow this no-meat diet on Fridays and Christmas Eve..

  2. Wow what an excellent blog. I loved reading it. You sure write well, Pooja. I’m now following you in WordPress. I’m going to make a cup of tea and read more of your blogs. My name is Anthony but my nickname is Dai. Please call me Dai and it’s an easy name for Nepalis to remember.

    1. Yes, those are pierogi! 🙂 I knew they were a hit in the US (do you live there?), but in Europe I think it’s famous only in its native Poland and maybe other countries with similar versions in their cuisine.

      1. I do live in the US. I learned about them when I lived in Pittsburgh, PA. There is a big Polish population there… everyone loved them. Not as popular in California, where I am now.

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